Concerned about $26 million in federal education funding for Montana that could be lost in 2014, the local teachers union president urged Missoula County Public Schools trustees to action Tuesday night.

At the Board of Trustees’ monthly meeting, Melanie Charlson outlined what is at risk if funding cut through federal sequestration is not replaced.

Among the items on the chopping block: $3 million in Title I grants and $2 million in special education grants.

With congressional negotiations underway and a House vote scheduled Friday on replacing the across-the-board cuts with a different set of spending reductions and non-tax revenue, the time is ripe to act, Charlson said.

“I am urging you tonight to take action before Dec. 13,” she said.

Charlson said Montanans should urge the state’s congressional delegation to support replacement the sequestrated money through two websites – and

In other board business, Sentinel High School student trustee Hailey Gray discussed an innovative smartphone app a classmate is working on to help prevent texting while driving and lower drivers’ insurance rates.

Jackson Smith would like to develop the app through a safe-driving grant from insurance company State Farm, but can’t be the recipient of the funding. Sentinel’s DECA program agreed to serve as the grantee, which is the reason the matter came before trustees.

Impressed by the project, the board unanimously approved the grant application.

Trustees also approved the district’s request to spend $30,000 on improving Sentinel High School’s softball fields as a way to reduce a debt owed to the University of Montana.

In 2006, MCPS completed a complicated land transaction with UM for two islands of property across from the district’s Business Building on South Avenue West.

That land, affectionately called the “Homevale property,” now belongs to MCPS, which paid UM $200,000 in 2006 but still owes $162,000, said Pat McHugh, MCPS director of business and operations.

In an unusual but mutually beneficial arrangement, UM would like to use the Sentinel’s softball fields as it ramps up its new athletic program, McHugh said when answering questions about the history of the land sale after the board meeting.

Upgrading the fields for college-level play will cost the district about $30,000, which UM agreed count toward the debt.

“We get credit against the debt, and the money we spend will stay with the Sentinel ballfield and benefit our students,” McHugh said.

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at

More from

(8) comments


I agree that U.S. students are measured differently by those of other nations, U.S. school systems being inclusive while those of other nations appear to be exclusive. I'm not sure this is a fair way to judge the effectiveness of our public education system.

We should be measured, not by an international standard, but by our own standard. So, the question becomes, how do we measure that? There are certain core standards to be met, and I do not believe these standards are set too high. There are standards the average student should meet.

I believe these standards come from the society at large, esp. the needs of business, industry, education, and simply understanding issues beyond one's job or position. In short, an educated and trained society is better than an uneducated, untrained society. These are not "leftist" standards. Get the politics out of our educational system.

After 28 years (1963-1994) teaching on the HS and community college level, I believe these things, rightly or wrongly. There's a 3-year gap in there for grad school, another story.

1. This criticism of our educational system started in 1957, when the USSR put Sputnik into space, beating the Americans. In the 1960s a flurry of federal legislation was passed, esp. the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

2. This Act was well intended, but private industry muscled its way in with the claim that we had to have more "educational media" in our schools. IOW, more technology. And so, schools bought videotapes, audio cassette tapes, filmstrips, LPs, films, etc., and the equipment to view them. These were all to advance our educational success.

The upshot was most of this collected dust as the technology went to computers. Now it was IT (computers). And, still is. So, the question must be asked is, How effective has all these millions and billions of dollars spent on IT advanced our educational success?

And, IT departments in schools and colleges must continually update their software/hardware at too great expense. Private industry has made a killing on what I consider an ineffective educational tool. Why? Because we're still asking the same questions that we were in 1957!

IT in schools should be in labs for special education, remedial, and gifted students, and in school media centers for research. It should not be part of standard classroom instruction for average students, if it is.

Take the money saved by reducing IT and use it to hire more live qualified teachers (not aides) to work with students on a daily basis.

3. Finally, I agree with those who are concerned about "self-esteem" in our schools. I think treating students with dignity and expecting the most out of them is esteem in itself. And, here's where I disagree with letting students come to school dressed any way they want. Who runs our schools? The students or the adults? Let's get real.

Several days ago, the Missolian on its front page showed a young female elementary student working on an art work for an exhibition. Well and good. But, she was wearing long-sleeved net arm coverings? This goes too far.

In inner urban schools being reformed to improve education, those kids come to school in shirts and ties. Result? Those schools are improving. I say, our kids need to go to school in shirts, ties, decent pants or skirts. Let's get some class into our classes!


Sequester is working---there needs to a vast improvement in our educational system before throwing a bunch of money at it. The great myth that is perpetuated is that if we don't spend more money, our kids will suffer all kinds of disasters. Make some small changes at first, removing tenure would help weed out the poorest teachers, then reward the best and brightest with salaries that are equal with other successful professional people. It's a start---right now the unions are the biggest obstacle to quality education and they need to be forced to do what is best for our kids, not their political favorites.


This poor and troubled nation of ours throws more money at students per se than any other country on this planet, yet we rank 14th about nations. And why, because a huge number of parents do not care, there is little discipline in class, and our leftist school systems are consumed with the kid's self esteem instead of teaching. And the big city public schools are a disaster. With the school unions, it is always only one thing, more and more money.

Atheist Educator
Atheist Educator

walter12 said "This poor and troubled nation of ours throws more money at students per se than any other country on this planet, yet we rank 14th about nations."

That statement is somewhat misleading. A large part of that cost-per-student is due to what we spend on special education. Many other countries do not do the same.

At least walter12 recognizes that parents are part of the problem.

jus wundrin
jus wundrin

....yet we spend more per student than most any other nation.

I heard AFT union president randi weingarten, who makes $500K per year of taxpayers $$$, talking about leveling the education playing field. Im curious of how thats going to work out between the progressively run 3rd world big cities, and the suburbs that surround them. That can only mean more dumbing down of the gubment skool system. Perhaps that is where common core fits in.

Objective observer

"AFT union president randi weingarten, who makes $500K per year of taxpayers $$$"

Keep showing your ignorance JW, it makes for good enterainment in the mornings.

Miss Perfect

Nope! we do not need federal monies for education......there are always strings attached, like the "Common Core" curriculum of corruption.

were it not for fed monies.......there would not be a fat headed hobbit getting $220k a year to manage a school affairs.


Wow, shocking insights! My understanding of the Common Core is that it requires students to read a variety of non-fiction/ fictional sources, use a variety of media, interpret that information and write a comprehensive essay comparing/ contrasting those sources and then coming to some kind of conclusion. But, if what you are saying is that they are teaching corruption, that truly is criminal.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.